Thursday, July 11, 2013


"The military, having effectively deposed two Egyptian leaders in 2½ years, has firmly established itself as the only real power in the country. Mohamed ElBaradei and other secular leaders are happy to have been vaulted into positions of apparent power, but one wonders how real or long-lasting their influence will be. Live by the sword, die by the sword: If the military can depose one democratically elected government, it can depose another. What happens when Egyptian “people power” returns to confront the next government, as it surely will? Once again the military will have the choice of intervening or not. Its decision is likely to have a lot to do with how the military feels about that government. So who will wield the real power when the next crisis comes? And the next crises are entirely predictable. The economic problems that Morsi inherited and failed to solve require significant sacrifices by average Egyptians, who have already sacrificed much. Such reforms would be difficult to implement even in a calm political climate, and the post-coup climate will be anything but calm. At least some portion of the millions who voted for Morsi have probably come to two conclusions: first, that democracy is a sham; and, second, that what matters in Egypt is who has the guns. Some followers of the Muslim Brotherhood may well decide that violence is their best and only recourse. And the military will in turn impose more-severe limitations on civil liberties to combat the violence, employing — along with the police — their traditional brutal methods. They may even attempt to prevent the Brotherhood from fielding candidates in the next election. After all, having deposed one Muslim Brotherhood government, the military may not think it wise to let another, possibly angrier Brotherhood government get elected six months from now. What will the secular liberal civilians now allied with the military do as these threats to personal liberties and democratic processes metastasize? On Thursday, as the military was arresting dozens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, ElBaradei said he would be the first “to shout loud and clearly if I see any sign of regression in terms of democracy.” One wonders when he will choose to see it, and what will happen to him if he ever does start shouting. Egypt is not starting over. It has taken a large step backward. And the Obama administration bears much blame. It put little or no meaningful pressure on Mubarak to make even minor political reforms that might have been enough to prevent the anti-regime outburst that exploded at the end of 2010. Then it put little or no tangible pressure on Morsi to end his undemocratic practices, which might have forestalled the most recent crisis. It has become fashionable in today’s “post-American world” milieu to argue that the United States had no ability to shape events in Egypt. This is absurd. The United States is far from being all-powerful, but neither is it powerless. Americans provide $1.5 billion a year in assistance to Egypt, $1.3 billion of which goes to the Egyptian military. It has leverage over the decisions of the IMF and influence with other international donors on whom Egypt’s economy depends. The U.S. ambassador to Egypt wields so much potential influence that Egyptians obsess daily over whom she is meeting, and they concoct wild conspiracies based on trivial events. The assumption in Egypt, as in much of the Arab world, is that nothing happens unless the United States wills it. The problem is not that the United States has no power but that the Obama administration has been either insufficiently interested or too cautious and afraid to use what power the United States has".
Robert Kagan, "Time to Break Out of a Rut in Egypt." The Brookings Institute. July 7, 2013 in
"How much have the US and its allies spent fighting wars this past decade? Add Iraq to Afghanistan, throw in the ever-prowling drones over Pakistan and Yemen and the bombs dropped on Libya, and the sum must amount to several trillion dollars. How much have these governments invested in would-be democracies since the start of the Arab uprisings? Unless you classify F-16 fighter jets as aid, it is a struggle to count much beyond a billion or so. The record makes one hesitate to say that the west has anything resembling a sensible prescription for the Middle East after this week’s coup in Egypt. The postcolonial settlement in the region is collapsing into sectarian strife. Borders are being erased as Sunnis square up against Shia, and Islamism battles secularism. Yet political leaders in Washington, Paris and London mostly occupy themselves mulling military intervention in Syria. In a different mindset, these leaders would have been attentive to the slow-motion car crash that ended in the toppling of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. Where was the promised economic aid to buttress political pluralism after the fall of Hosni Mubarak? I was sure I heard someone talk about a Marshall plan for the region. It might even have been Barack Obama.... The mistake on all sides in the Middle East has been to confuse democracy with the ballot box. It is not enough that leaders submit themselves for periodical elections. Democracy demands a commitment to pluralism, the submission of the powerful as well as the weak to the rule of law, protections for minorities and respect for cultural and ethnic difference. None of these was in plentiful supply during Mr Morsi’s year-long presidency.... Egypt needs two things to build a democracy. Tunisia, and any other Arab state seeking to make the transition, need the same. The first is massive aid – technology as well as money, trade access as well as educational assistance – to modernise the economy, and to keep people off the streets while constitutions are written and institutions built. The second is expert advice and powerful incentives to create the political ecosystem in which opposing political forces can flourish. Dictators operate zero-sum regimes. Democracy demands positive sum outcomes that safeguard the interests of minorities as well as majorities.... Only daydreamers thought the Arab uprisings would see a transition within a decade or two to a region of shiny new democracies. On the very best assumptions, shaking off authoritarianism was going to be a generation-long project. Now, with civil war in Syria and the coup in Egypt, the region has started to go backwards. This is not to say it is time to give up and embrace the generals; it is to demand that the west think again about how to help".
Philip Stephens, "The Cairo coup is a rude awakening for the west." The Financial Times. 4 July 2013, in
For once the egregiously bien-pensant Philip Stephens has a valid point to make. It is indeed the case, that imagination of the sort that the Anglo-Americans displayed in the case of Western Europe circa 1947-1950, with Central & Eastern Europe in the last twenty-years and even (in a more limited fashion) in the mid to late twenties of the last century, with the Dawes and Young Plans. Unfortunately, in the case of Egypt and the other countries of the Near and Middle East, the West has for the most part been a silent partner in the ongoing 'transition' (now apparently stopped) to something akin to what one may term 'Democracy' since circa 2011. With the exception of the Anglo-French effort to overthrow the Gadaffi Regime in 2011 and the negotiations to pacify Yeman since 2011, the West has indeed been for the most part silent and almost non-existent on the ground since the commencement of the Arab Spring. Which is not to gainsay the fact that to some extent, a less overtly noticeable West is something that most of the new regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yeman and Libya wanted. Of course they did not at the same time, wish to forgo any sort of economic assistance that may come their way from the West. With that being said, it is in fact the case that the West, with the Americans in particular which have singularly failed to raise to the occasion since circa 2011. Which makes yesterdays' announcement that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both virulently opposed to the former Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Cairo, have promised eight-billion dollars in assistance to Cairo is all the more poignant in contrast to the virtual silence of the West 1. And, while one can appreciate the cogent rationale of the Saudi / Kuwaiti move, one cannot but be struck with what is highlights about the type of non-involvement of the West in the current near-chaos that is the Near and Middle East and especially in Egypt at the moment. Especially since neither Arabic power has any inkling of intending to assist any transitions towards Democratization, either partial or full-fledged as in the case of say modern-day Turkey. This is not to gainsay that for example contemporary Turkey is the plus ultra model for the region, merely that comme il faute, it is the very best thing on offer. Certainly au fond it is an infinitely a better future for Egypt and the region as a whole the 'other' possible future for Egypt, which is of course Algeria, since circa 1991. About which enough...
1. Ahmed Haggagy & Amena Bakr; Writing by Martin Dokoupil, "Kuwait promises Egypt $4 billion in aid-state." Reuters. 10 July 2013, in


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